Originally studied in relation to aging and cancer research, telomeres and telomerase are now also investigated in relation to psychiatric disorders and treatments. Based on findings emerging from clinical and preclinical data, we hypothesize that the telomere–telomerase system represents a novel element mediating the mechanism of action of certain psychopharmacological interventions.
In this symposium I’ll present the preliminary evidence on the complex translational relationships between specific psychiatric medications (i.e. antidepressants, lithium and antipsychotics), the telomere–telomerase system and clinical outcomes. The modulation of intracellular Wnt/b-catenin or PI3 K/Akt signaling pathways, the interaction with BDNF and 5-HT, and the antioxidant properties could represent possible mechanisms by which the different types of psychiatric medications could modulate telomere length and telomerase activity. The potential of the telomere–telomerase system in promoting cellular survival and/or function in the brain and in the periphery could, in turn, represent a neurobiological substrate through which these molecules can mediate the therapeutic effect of such interventions.
Further, in the present symposium I’ll show data from our research team on telomere length and telomerase activity in leukocytes predicting clinical response to serotonin–specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in subjects with major depressive disorder.
Disclosure of interest
The author has not supplied his declaration of competing interest.